August 25, 1905
New York City, New York, United States
July 23, 1961
Malibu, California, United States
Screenwriter, Director, Novelist, Playwright
A notable, if not prolific, Hollywood screenwriter of the 1940s and 50s, Valentine Davies penned scripts which have a marked fondness for nostalgia, fantasy and unabashed sentiment. A novelist, he took up screenwriting in the early 40s, though it took several years before he began regularly receiving screen credit. Davies hit his stride at 20th Century-Fox; some of his most notable work was in collaboration with the team of producer William Perlberg and writer-director George Seaton, specialists in genial, amusing, if slightly bland, family entertainments. After writing the musical "Three Little Girls in Blue" (1946), Davies first collaborated with Perlberg and Seaton, writing the original story for which he was both most acclaimed and best remembered. "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947), the tale of a department store Santa who turns out to be the real thing, deftly combined farce, romance, whimsy and a Frank Capra-style populism and won Davies an Oscar for Best Original Story."Miracle" would prove to be Davies' most enduring achievement. Among the actors who stepped into Edmund Gwenn's shoes as Kris Kringle were Thomas Mitchell, Ed Wynn and Sebastian Cabot in the 1955, 1959 and 1973 TV versions of the tale, and a feature remake emerged in 1994 with Richard Attenborough. Davies, though, continued successfully at Fox for a while; after two mild Dan Dailey vehicles ("Chicken Every Sunday" and "You Were Meant for Me," both 1948), he received another Oscar nomination for his whimsy about a professor whose wood-repellent formula turns him into a star baseball pitcher, "It Happens Every Spring" (1949). He received another nomination when he bounded back into films with the standardized but heart-tugging "The Glenn Miller Story" (1954). After this film and his "Strategic Air Command" (1955), which reteamed James Stewart and June Allyson of "Glenn Miller" fame, became box office bonanzas, Davies was given a chance to direct a film, but "The Benny Goodman Story" (1955) was too derivative to duplicate the earlier bandleader biopic's success. Davies' fondness for both sentimentality and boisterous comedy continued in his remaining few screen credits, even a decent adaptation of James Michener's "The Bridges at Toko- Ri" (1955). His last screen work came with the routine if watchable marital comedies "It Started With a Kiss" (1959) and "Bachelor in Paradise" (1961) before his death at age 55. The Writers Guild of America subsequently established an annual award given in his honor to a person who has contributed to the entertainment industry as well as the community at large and has brought both dignity and honor to the profession of writer.